Tegna Investor Standard General Steps Up Call for Board Shake-Up

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Tegna Inc.‘s third-largest investor is invigorating its push for board seats at the broadcaster a year after shareholders rejected its call for change as the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

Standard General LP, which owns a 9.2% stake in Tegna, is seeking three board seats. Soo Kim, Standard General’s chief executive officer, said in an interview Friday that his slate of nominees will bring ample industry experience and diverse outlooks to the board.

Tegna has benefited from Standard General’s activism even without the firm having representation on the board, Kim contends. Tegna’s shares have gained about 40% over the past year after the company implemented several measures Standard General called for during last year’s proxy contest. That included a share buyback program and a moratorium on acquisitions.

Kim said he also supported Tegna in leveraging a blackout of its signal during negotiations with AT&T Inc. in December. Standard General would be able to do more for the company from inside the boardroom, Kim said.

“We would be able to do a lot more with a much more constructive and direct dialog,” he said. “I think that stands to reason. They’ve paid me the ultimate flattery by doing what I said, and the market has done the ultimate flattery of trading the shares well.”

A representative for Tegna declined to comment. The company in January said when the nominations were first submitted that it would make its recommendation in due course.

Standard General sought four board seats in its unsuccessful proxy contest last year. Kim said he believes that campaign failed because of the difficulty the pandemic created in getting his message across to shareholders at the time. Standard General argued then that change was needed because of missteps by the company’s leadership, including failing to find a buyer.

Kim’s message is more simple this time around. He said he and his nominees have good ideas that will help improve Tegna’s performance and the boardroom is the place to pursue them.

“We’ve obviously proven ourselves not to be short-termist,” he said. “We’re not going away.”

Standard General has again nominated former Fisher Communications Inc. Chief Executive Officer Colleen Brown. Last year, Brown won the support of the advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. but failed to win election.

Standard General has also nominated Carlos Salas, chairman of Commerce Mortgage House, and Elizabeth Tumulty, the former president of affiliate relations at CBS Television Network. The firm had also nominated Adonis Hoffman, who withdrew his nomination this week.

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